A relatively cheap anti-diabetic drug that lowers blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetes patients also significantly cuts the risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease, according to a new study.
Experts said on Monday the study heralds a ''new era'' in the treatment of type two diabetes.
Canagliflozin, a pill taken once a day before breakfast, is designed to lower blood sugar levels and keep weight down. But the new study reveals the £1.30 a day drug also has a remarkable impact on cardiovascular problems and kidney disease.
The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, came in after a clinical trial of more than 10,000 patients in 30 countries using canagliflozin. It found the drug reduced the overall risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 per cent and reduced the risk of heart failure hospitalisation by 33 per cent. It was also shown to have a significant impact - 40 per cent less - on the progression of kidney decline.
The study by the George Institute for Global Health has major implications for the treatment of type 2 diabetes - which affects around 450 million people worldwide, the authors said. ''Coronary heart disease is the biggest killer by far for people with type 2 diabetes. Our findings suggest not only does canagliflozin significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, it also has many other benefits too,'' said the group's Bruce Neal.
''We found it also reduced blood pressure and led to weight loss. Type 2 diabetes is growing rapidly all over the world and we need drugs that not only deal with glucose levels, but also protect many millions of people from the very real risks of stroke and heart attack,'' Neal said.
The study was presented at the American Diabetes Association Conference in San Diego. The findings were cited as particularly relevant to Australia where around 65 per centof cardiovascular deaths occur in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, and diabetes is also the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease.
''Both patients and physicians should be tremendously reassured by the results,'' said co-author Vlado Perkovic, executive director of The George Institute Australia. ''It not only reduces the risk of heart disease, it also provides real protection against kidney decline, which affects many people with diabetes.''